“Sondra Radvanovsky did not play Tosca. Radvanovsky is Tosca. From the moment the soprano entered the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle and until she jumped from the battlements of castle Sant’Angelo, the audience could only see a powerful woman consumed by jealousy and love, a victim of blackmail and sexual harassment, killing in cold blood, dreaming about a new life with her lover, and ultimately assuming with dignity and poise her suicide as her only way out. Radvanovsky hypnotized us from the outset. This powerful, truthful, and moving characterization goes along with probably one of the best voices currently out there. Her dark, dry, powerful timbre, her cavernous chest voice register, her secure big top notes and the ability to sing impossible pianissimi make this soprano, who has sang more than 200 performances of this role, ideal for Puccini’s heroine.
She was the only one in this cast who could be heard consistently and clearly over the needlessly loud orchestra. You felt as if the soprano was singing right beside your ear. In the first act, where she suffers two attacks of jealousy and flirts with her lover, Radvanovsky sounded easy and youthful. In her cantata, sung off-stage, where she sings her first high C and B natural, her sound was again heard over the entire choir. It is when Tosca enters in the second act that the soprano has to face tremendous challenges. She has to sing three high Cs and several fortissimo B flats over the orchestra at its loudest, while she is being shaken and throw to the floor. Not only were these perilous moments perfectly executed but Radvanovsky’s dramatism, chest voice and parlato, screamed moments were terrifying. The hardest moment for every soprano is managing to get to “Vissi d’arte!” with the voice still fresh-enough to sing its central tessitura and the A flat and G in pianissimi. This aria could not have been sung better, and not only once, but twice! She controls her breathing to extract all the colors and dynamics of every line, filling the music with begging and desperation. She managed a fortissimo high B flat, followed by a crescendo-diminuendo on the A flat and G, singing the same dynamics on her last note in “così,” a central B flat, which is a dangerous note on which to do a diminuedo-crescendo, especially after singing in a high tessitura for the whole act.
Radvanovsky was moved to tears during the ovation following her aria. In spite of all the productions she has done, she still followed all the requirements of Azorin’s physically demanding staging, which expects, for example, that Radvanovsky sing the first four lines of her aria lying on her back. The way she stabbed Scarpia multiple time in a state of hysteria was terrific. Her determination to make the character believable enabled her to sing the a capella high C of “Io quella lama” while stabbing the air frenetically, recreating how she murdered Scarpia, without any uneveness in the sound. At the end she faces the audience at the edge of the inclined platform that recreates castle Sant’Angelo, and she lets herself fall backwards, creating a truthful and shocking impression.
Sondra Radvanovsky is one of the best Toscas today. As I always say, and as time will show, she will become a part of opera history.”
“This Puccini masterpiece was last seen at Teatro Real in July 2011, with a double cast in which Sondra Radvanovsky stood out. She is the one who has really triumphed on this occasion too.
There is no doubt that in the first cast the great triumph was for Sondra Radvanovsky, who was singing Tosca here ten years after her Madrid debut in the part… she offers a voice of more than remarkable volume, with a very wide middle range, and has not lost an iota of her ease with the high notes. What a remarkable performer on stage she is! It should be noted that in all her performances the audience demanded that she repeated ‘Vissi d’arte’, thus making history at Teatro Real – a truly great Tosca.”